It Starts With Talking to Each Other
Building a strong union only happens when we all work together for a common purpose. And that only happens if we have effective communication. In fact, in survey after survey, one of the top issues raised by members is the importance of communication. This covers more than just knowing what’s going on – it also means having an effective system to give input and have meaningful dialogue with everyone throughout our union.
Tip 1: Don’t Be Shy. Seriously. Naturally, people like to hang out and talk with those who are familiar to them. Striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know isn’t usually at the top of anyone’s list. In fact, we probably all eat lunch with the same friends each day. But if we are trying to build a union, we can’t do it with a handful of folks who are familiar to us.
There’s also a very practical reason to engage in conversations with co-workers you don’t know: it’s a great way to learn and share information. You might have a question about collective bargaining, and a co-worker you barely know might have the answer. Or you might have just returned from Black Lake where you learned about the connection between our history and today, and the material handler with whom you’ve only said a few words might be interested.
“It’s not about being right, it’s about listening.”
Kirk Drape (Region 4, Local 838)
TIP 2: Who knew? Too often we think communication is about loading one another with information or data. It’s not. It starts with listening and showing sincere interest in another’s point of view. We don’t have to always agree, but it’s also always surprising how you think someone who is the polar opposite of you is in fact closer to you than you think.
Listen to Phil Amon’s story. He didn’t start out pro-union; in fact, he didn’t join his co-workers in a strike. It took one person to sit down with him and actually talk to Phil and answer his questions to turn Phil around.
Ever wonder about the power of a simple conversation? Phil shares how he learned what solidarity means through one person taking the time to talk to him.
Phillip Ammons (Region 8, Local 5285)
- You can learn the most about another person by asking open-ended questions. These are questions which can’t be answered with one word. Favorite color? What you had for dinner? Who’s going to win the World Series? These are closed questions. Open-ended questions should make the person you are talking to go “hmmm… let me think about it.” Examples include: what do you think it will take to get a good contract this year? What kind of future do you want for your children?
- Talking is not selling: we’re building a union, not selling a product. If you feel like you are selling someone on a union, you need to take a pause and reevaluate. Being authentic and sincere in your interest in others is key to an effective conversation.
- Remember this is a process: a conversation is a way to build communication and a relationship. Pick up the strands of your talk later on when you see each other again.